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Dynamic Conservation Easements: Facing the Problem of Perpetuity in Land Conservation

41 Pages Posted: 19 May 2005  

Duncan M. Greene

Seattle University School of Law


A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that restricts the development and future use of a piece of property in order to protect its conservation values. In only a few decades, the conservation easement has emerged from obscurity and is now one of the most popular methods of preserving open spaces and natural lands. Meanwhile, advances in ecological science are transforming human understanding of how the natural world works. The static view of nature as unchanging is yielding to a dynamic model. Yet, conservation easements traditionally have been drafted as unchanging legal agreements between landowners and easement holders. As a result, such static conservation easements may fail to adequately accommodate future events such as change in the land itself, change in a landowner's use of the land, or an advance in ecological science. Compared to traditional, static conservation easements, dynamic conservation easements capable of accommodating change over time are better suited to serving their unique conservation purposes. As a result, they are more likely to fulfill their promise to protect the land in perpetuity.

Keywords: Conservation easement, landowner, land trust, land use, natural resources, sprawl, open space, perpetuity, urban development, working landscape, farmland, ranchland, forestland, working forest, environment, static, dynamic, stewardship, fee simple, adaptive management, property rights

JEL Classification: K11, K32, Q2, Q20, Q23, Q24, Q25, Q26, Q3, Q30, R1

Suggested Citation

Greene, Duncan M., Dynamic Conservation Easements: Facing the Problem of Perpetuity in Land Conservation. Seattle University Law Review, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 883-923, Spring 2005. Available at SSRN:

Duncan M. Greene (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

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